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Roanoke Building and Tower 

(Originally Lumber Exchange Building) 
11 South LaSalle Street 

Submitted to the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in August 2007 


Richard M. Daley, Mayor 

Department of Planning and Development 

Images 1-4: (cover) Historic image of the Roanoke Building & Tower featuring the aerial 
beacon; Terra cotta details on the Roanoke Building & Tower. Image 5-6: (above) Picture 
of the Roanoke Building and Tower located at the corner of LaSalle and Madison; 
(opposite page) map of Chicago's Loop highlighting the location of the Roanoke Build- 

The commission on Chicago Landmarks, whose nine members are appointed by the 
Mayor and City Council, was established in 1968 by city ordinance. It is responsible for 
recommending to the City Council that individual buildings, sites, objects, or districts 
should be designated as Chicago landmarks, which protects them by law. The 
commission is staffed by the Chicago Department of Planning and Development, 33 N. 
LaSalle St., Room 1600, Chicago, IL 60602; (312-744-3200) phone; (312-744-2958) TTY; 
(312-744-9140) fax; web site, 

This Preliminary Summary of Information is subject to possible revision and amendment 
during the designation proceedings. Only language contained within the City Council's 
final landmark designation ordinance should be regarded as final. 

Roanoke Building and Tower 

(Originally Lumber Exchange Building) 
11 S. LaSalle Street 



1915 (original sixteen-story building) 

1922 (additional five stories) 

1925 (thirty-six-story adjacent tower) 

Holabird & Roche (1915, 1922) 

Rebori, Wentworth, Dewey & McCormick, with 

Holabird & Roche (1925) 

The Roanoke Building and Tower is a significant early twentieth-century commercial 
building located in Chicago*! historic LaSalle Street financial district With intricate, 
distinctive and unusual detailing, the brown terra-cotta-clad, Portuguese Gothic-style 
building was built in three stages. It was originally built as the sixteen-story, 200-foot- 
tall Lumber Exchange Building in 1 915. In 1 922 five stories were added after building 
height restrictions on downtown Chicago buildings were eased, and the building was 
rechristened the Roanoke Building. Finally, in 1925, a thirty-six-story tower was added 
to the building, taking advantage of the City's first zoning ordinance which allowed 
soaring towers in Chicago's Loop. 

The building is a striking example of how early twentieth-century downtown Chicago 
buildings evolved in response to changing zoning codes. The building is also singularly 
significant for its distinctive terra-cotta ornamentation and detailing, produced by one of 
the City's leading architectural firats, Hoisted & Roche, aad one of the City's more 
idiosyncratic architects, Andrew Rebori. 

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Images 7-1 1 : (clockwise from 
lower left) A historic view of the 
McCormick Reaper Factory in 
Chicago (The Roanoke Building 
& Tower was built by the 
McCormick family as a real- 
estate investment); An order 
blank from 1851 shows a line 
drawing of the McCormick 
reaper; a view of a McCormick 
harvester and binder at work in 
1876; Leander McCormick, the 
vice-president of the McCor- 
mick Reaper Works and an im- 
portant figure in the creation of 
the McCormick family's real- 
estate holdings; a group photo- 
graph of three generations of 
McCormicks (Robert Hall 
McCormick, Robert Hall McCor- 
mick III, and Robert Hall McCor- 
mick IV). 

Building History 

On January 17, 1914, the Leander McCormick Estate, 
managed by McCormick's son Robot, announced pints for a 
Loop skyscraper. Leander James McCormick was a noted 
Chicago businessman, son of Robert McCormick who 
invented the mechanical reaper and brother to Cyrus 
McCormick who received the patent. Shortly after Robert's 
death in 1846, Leander McCormick joined his brothers to 
create the McCormick Harvesting Machine. By the 1 870s the 
McCormicks were one of the wealthiest families in the United 

In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed much of the 
McCormick Reaper Works on the north bank of the Chicago 
River, but the McCormicks, under Leander's direction, 
quickly rebuilt and recovered. Leander stayed active in the 
management of the business until 1889 when he retired and 
sold his shares to his nephew, Cyrus H. McCormick, Jr. After 
retiring from the business, Leander then invested heavily in 
real estate. At the time of his death on February 20, 1900, he 
had extensive holdings in downtown Chicago. After his 
death, the estate continued to manage and develop real estate. 

In 1915, the site of the Roanoke Building and Tower was 
partially occupied by a much-earlier, smaller building the 
seven-story Roanoke Building built in 1872 in the aftermath 
of the Chicago Fire. The LaSalle Street district was then, as 
now, the center of the city's financial district. Starting before 
the Chicago Fire, and intensifying in the years after, LaSalle 
Street became the nexus of business, finance, and banking for 
rapidly-growing Chicago. Originally redeveloped with five- 
to seven-story buildings after the Fire, these smaller buildings 
were being torn down all along LaSalle for taller buildings 
that more intensively utilized the street's premiere location 
and prestige. For example, just to the south of the proposed 
Lumber Exchange Building site was the thirteen-story Central 
YMCA, designed by Jenney & Mundie and built in 1893. 
The building was the result of a concerted effort by Chicago's 
mercantile elite, including the McCormick family, to develop 
the YMCA as a more prominent social agency amidst the 
burgeoning population. Further south on the block were two 
other buildings by Jenney & Mundie: the 1902 twelve-story 
National Life building and the 1 894 fourteen-story New York 
Life building (designated a Chicago Landmark in 2006). 

The Lumber Exchange Building was a speculative office 
building with ground-floor commercial uses. It was the result 
of a long-standing agreement between the Lumberman's 

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Images 12-14: (top- 
bottom) The earlier 
building (also 
known as the Roa- 
noke Building) on 
the southeast cor- 
ner of LaSalle & 
Madison in 1875; a 
period postcard 
view of the and 
YMCA building, by 
Jenny & Mundie 
and immediately 
adjacent to the 
Roanoke Building 
& Tower; nearby is 
the New York Life 
Building, also de- 
signed by Jenny & 
Mundie and lo- 
cated at LaSalle 
and Monroe. 

Association of Chicago and the McCormick estate. Lumber, along with grain and 
meatpacking, was one of the "big three" commodities of nineteenth-century Chicago 
commerce. The Lumberman's Association of Chicago, as the name suggests, was the 
trade association for the industry. In addition to the association's offices, the new 
building was also intended to house the "Lumberman's Club," then located across the 
street from the Great Northern Hotel at Dearborn and Jackson Streets. The notion of an 
"exchange" building was that vendors and sales representatives from the industry, often 
one- and two-person offices, could co-locate into a single building. Typically, such 
buildings featured a double-loaded corridor with interconnecting doors which would 
allow flexible office configurations. Floors and offices not taken by lumber-related 
businesses were leased for general office use. 

The architects for the new building were Holabird & Roche. This longstanding firm had 
been founded in 1881 by William Holabird and Martin Roche, who met while working 
in the architectural office of William Le Baron Jenney — the so-called "father of the 
skyscraper." A native of New York, Holabird came to Chicago in 1875. Roche was 
raised in Chicago and was educated at the Armour Institute of Technology. 
The firm was one of the city's most prolific at the turn of the century. Among its early 
designs were the Tacoma Building (1889; NE corner of Madison and LaSalle Streets, 
demolished), Old Colony Building (1893-94; 407 S. Dearborn Street), Marquette 
Building (1891-95; 140 S. Dearborn Street) , Chicago Tribune Building (1901-02; 7 S. 
Dearborn Street, demolished), Chicago Savings Bank (1903-04; 7 W. Madison Street), 
the McCormick Building (1908-12; 332 S. Michigan Avenue) and the Cook County 
Courthouse-City Hall (1904-10; bounded by Randolph, Clark, Washington and LaSalle 

Image 15: A photo 
of Holabird & 
Roche's Lumber 
Exchange Building 
as it originally was 
built as a 16-story 
office building. 


The design of the sixteen-story steel-frame and terra-cotta building is attributed to the 
younger architects of the firm, including William Holabird's son, John Holabird, and 
John Root, son of John Root Sr. of the rival firm, Burnham and Root. Trained at the 
Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris, both men were more interested in ornamentation than 
their elders, and as a result, the 1915 building displays elegant ornamentation of an 
unusual nature. Rather than the more commonly used classical details, it is replete with 
"grotesques" and other figures reminiscent of the Gothic and early Romanesque styles. 
Critic Russell Whitehead recalled John Root, Jr. telling the story that for this building 
the designers "operated on the . . . principle that the man who could find the rarest book 
would do the most distinctive job. Root found a wonderful and little known book on 
Portuguese Gothic and had a circus with it." 

In form, the original Lumber Exchange Building was a closed "L," roughly 65 foot 
deep, with facades of 136 feet in length along LaSalle Street and 102 feet along 
Madison Street. The building's 200-feet-high facade facade was the maximum allowed 
at the time by the City of Chicago. The building was entered off the second 
southernmost bay of LaSalle Street and featured a marble lobby with eight elevators. At 
the southwest corner was a small store in the first bay. North of the lobby were four 
larger retail spaces. Upper-floor elevator lobbies were tasteful yet restrained. The 
corridors were typical of the era with marble walls, terrazzo floors, interior windows/ 
transoms, wood trim, and brass fixtures. The offices were primarily located on the 
exterior street-side walls to provide ample light. Functional spaces, such as restrooms, 
were placed on the inside walls of the L-shaped building. 

Demolition of the existing building on the site was scheduled for early summer. Notices 
to the tenants asked them to vacate on May 1 . In 1914 newspapers reported the new 
building construction saying, "4,000 tons of iron let on Lumber Exchange building . . . 
The exterior will be brick and terra-cotta with marble trim — a finish similar to the 
McCormick building and cost 1,250,000 when completed." A ring of lights above the 
first floor storefronts illuminated the building on both street elevations. 

Completed in the spring of 1915 at a cost of $1.3 million, the Lumber Exchange 
Building had difficulties leasing up with lumber enterprises. But the building was 
quickly filled with a variety of occupants ranging from financial businesses to lawyers 
to retail companies' corporate headquarters. By the time the building opened, it was 
60% leased. The largest tenant was the Greenebaum and Sons Bank and Trust, 
occupying the ground floor at the northwest corner of the building and five upper floors. 

Within five years of the completion of the original Lumber Exchange Building, in 1920, 
the City of Chicago raised the height limit on downtown buildings from 200 feet to 264 
feet. With rapid growth, low vacancy and soaring rents creating a "bullish" market for 
LaSalle Street office space, the McCormick Estate decided to add five stories to the 
Lumber Exchange Building at a cost of $703,500 and to rename the building "The 

The architects for the addition were again Holabird & Roche. The added floors required 
the removal of elaborate and intricate terra-cotta decoration above the sixteenth floor 
window that included dramatic semi-circular blind arches with "pantera" over each 
window and foliated scrollwork at the cornice. The new floors maintained the vertical 

1925— Addition 
of 36-story 
adjacent tower 

1922— Addition 
of 5-stories 

1915— Original 



Image 16: The 
Roanoke Building 
& Tower was ex- 
panded twice, first 
in 1922 with the 
addition of five 
additional top 
floors atop the 
original 16-story 
building, then in 
1925 with the ad- 
dition of an adja- 
cent 36-story 

rhythm of the bays but in composition asserted a more tripartite "base-shaft-capital" 
organization. The new design also simplified the entry. At the same time, though more 
restrained, the new floors continued the Portuguese Gothic-style decoration and even 
reused some existing decoration for the new cornice. 

Again, changing land-use regulations brought change to the building. In 1923, the City 
passed its first comprehensive zoning law, attempting to regulate both vertical and 
horizontal sprawl. The law replaced the rigid height limit with a new zoning formula 
that allowed towers above the twenty-second story of a building, provided that they did 
not occupy more than one-fourth of the area of the building lot and that tower space was 
not more than one-sixth of the entire building. 

With the soaring real estate market, the zoning change prompted Robert McCormick, on 
behalf of his father's estate, to acquire the lot adjacent to and to the east of the Roanoke 
Building. The lot was small just forty feet along Madison Street and ninety feet deep. 
On the lot was the Bandbox Movie Theater, which was soon after demolished. On this 
small lot, McCormick would capitalize on the new zoning code by building a tower 
addition to the Roanoke, using the existing building's floor-to-area ratio to justify the 
new tower. 

For the project, McCormick again used the architectural firm of Holabird & Roche. The 
firm's reputation had remained steady since they designed the Lumber Exchange in 
1913. However, William Holabird died in July, 1923 and with Martin Roche in his 
seventh decade, the firm was transitioning to a younger generation of principals. 
McCormick also involved Andrew Rebori in the project, a Chicago architect who over 
the years would develop a reputation for imaginative architecture. At the time, the 
thirty-seven-year-old Rebori had considerable professional training, including studies at 
the Ecole de Beaux- Arts and associations with Cass Gilbert. In 1910 he moved from 
New York to Chicago and usually worked independently until 1921, when he joined 
with two well-connected Chicago architects, John Wentworth and Albert Dewey. A 
fourth partner in the firm was Leander J. McCormick, grandson of Robert McCormick, 
who brought connections to the McCormick real estate holdings. 

The Roanoke Building Tower was Rebori's first office building. It is difficult to 
determine Rebori's role in the collaboration, but a comparison of the Roanoke Tower to 
another Rebori design of the time, the Michigan Avenue Tower, suggests that Rebori 
was an active participant. 

The Roanoke Tower is extremely sympathetic to the original Lumber Exchange 
Building design. On the northern facade it maintained the vertical and horizontal 
articulation, fenestration, materials and largely continued the terra-cotta decoration 
horizontally, though with subtle changes that added an element of Art Deco to the 
assemblage. Internally, a second building entrance was installed at the easternmost bay 
which led along a thin one-bay corridor to the elevator lobby. The upper floors were 
now typically configured with an "L" shaped corridor connecting the two elevator 

Images 17-19: (clockwise from 
top left) 1928 birds eye view of 
the Roanoke Tower; 1929 view 
of the Roanoke Tower looming 
over LaSalle Street.; four men 
working on the radio tower/ 
aviation beacon atop the Roa- 
noke Tower in 1928. 


The most dramatic element of the addition is the tower itself, which rises above the 
twenty-first story almost another 200 feet. This tower, which measured approximately 
forty feet east and west and ninety feet deep, featured a central elevator and stair core 
with offices spaces flanking. Capping the structure was a bell tower with four still- 
extant bronze bells set to chime an original composition called "Samheim" (Norse for 
"Tomorrow") every quarter hour. Upon completion, the thirty-seven story Roanoke 
Tower was one of the City's tallest buildings, such that tenant Walter Greenebaum paid 
for the installation of the city's first aviation beacon on the roof of the Roanoke Tower. 

Images 20-21: (left) 1925 eleva- 
tion of the Tower addition to the 
Roanoke Building; Birds eye 
view of the completed Roanoke 
Tower addition. 


Architect: Holabird and Roche 

In business since 1883, the firm of Holabird and Roche grew to be one of the most 
successful and prolific architectural firms in Chicago. The firms' commission averaged 
$6 million per year between 1 908 and 1911 reaching a peak of $ 1 3 million in 1 9 1 0. By 
the time the Lumber Exchange Building was completed in 1915, the firm was well- 
established and highly sought after. By this time, the firm was one of the nation's 
leading firms with five to ten percent of the share of construction in the city. The firm 
employed over one hundred draftsmen. Between 1912 and 1917, Holabird and Roche 
surpassed the New York firm of McKim, Mead and White in size and commissions, but 
were still behind the Chicago firm of Burnham and Company. By the 1920s, Holabird 
and Roche surpassed the Burnham firm. The 1920s have been cited as one of the most 
brilliant periods in the firm's history. In particular, the firm played a key role in the 
development of the new setback-styled skyscrapers in Chicago and elsewhere in 

The senior member of the firm was William Holabird. Born in 1 854 and a graduate of 
West Point, Holabird began working as a draftsman for Jenney & Mundie in the years 
immediately following the fire of 1 87 1 . Martin Roche was born in 1 853 in Cleveland 
and arrived in Chicago as a child. He too worked for Jenney and Mundie and became 
friends with Holabird. In 1880, the two left Jenny & Mundie with Ossian C. Simonds to 
create an independent firm. Simonds withdrew from the firm three years later and the 
name was changed to Holabird and Roche. 

The partners did not achieve success immediately. Building in Chicago was almost at a 
stand-still, and Roche turned to designing furniture and entering competitions in the 
hope of winning cash prizes. In 1 885 they received their first commission-a two-story 
retail and apartment building. 

During the next few years new building methods were adopted in cities over the 
country. In Chicago, the first example of steel-frame construction was the Home 
Insurance building, called "the father of the sky-scraper" when completed in 1885. Two 
years later Holabird & Roche developed an improved form of "skeleton construction" in 
the 1887 twelve-story Tacoma Building, located at the northeast corner of LaSalle and 
Madison Streets (the Roanoke Building would be located at the southeast comer). The 
success of the Tacoma Building led to a continuing list of important works. 

In 1913, William Holabird's twenty-seven-year-old son, John, came to work for the 
firm. He graduated from West Point and attended Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Upon 
joining the firm he was put to work on the Three Arts Club where he did stencil-work 
for the wall decoration. He was joined at the firm by Ecole des Beaux- Arts classmate 
John Root, son of John Wellborn Root, partner of Daniel Burnham. He left in 1917 to 
serve in the military during the Great War and re-entered firm after his discharge in 

With his father in failing health and the senior Roche disinclined to take full charge, 
Holabird assumed leadership in the office and during the busy years of the 1920s. 
During this time he proved his skill and ability in executing the numerous and varied 



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Images 22-27: (clockwise from top left) 1910 photo of the architectural firm Holabird & 
Roche; the firm designed numerous early Chicago skyscrapers, including the Tacoma 
Building (demolished); firm partners William Holabird and Martin Roche; the firm also de- 
signed the Classical Revival-style City Hall-County Building (a designated Chicago Land- 
mark); the firm's south addition of the Monadnock Building (a designated Chicago Land- 


commissions received by the firm. Major projects in Chicago included the new Palmer 
House, and the Stevens Hotel (the largest of the entire firm's single buildings), the Daily 
News Building, and the new Board of Trade Building. 

In 1928, the firm was reorganized and renamed Holabird and Root. As the years passed 
the firm continued to build on the reputation of its predecessor and establish itself as one 
of the premier architectural firms in the city. 

To date, the firm has many buildings designated as Chicago Landmarks, both 
individually and within landmark districts, including, Monadock Building (53 W. 
Jackson Boulevard; 1889-93); Old Colony Building (407 S. Dearborn Street; 1894); 
Marquette Building (140 S. Dearborn Street; 1895); Gage Group (24 and 30 S. 
Michigan Avenue; 1899-1900); the Chicago Building (7 S. Madison Street, 1904-05); 
City Hall- County Building (121 N. LaSalle Street/1 18 N. Clark Street; 1905-08; 1909- 
1 1); Oliver Building (159 N. Dearborn Street; 1907 with a 1920 addition); Brooks 
Building (223 W. Jackson Boulevard; 1909-10); Three Arts Club (1300 N. Dearborn 
Street; 1914), 333 N. Michigan Avenue Building (333 N. Michigan Avenue; 1928); 
Chicago Board of Trade Building (141 W. Jackson Boulevard, 1930), and the Palmolive 
Building (919 N. Michigan Avenue; 1927-29). 

Images 28-29: Holabird & Root, the successor firm to Holabird & Roche, is also a signifi- 
cant architectural firm in Chicago history, designing many Art Deco-style skyscrapers, 
including (left to right) the Chicago Board of Trade Building from 1930 and the Palmolive 
Building, built in 1927-29. 


Architect: Andrew Rebori 

The architect of the tower portion of the Roanoke 
Building and Tower was Andrew Nicholas Rebori, one 
of Chicago's most individualistic M^-century architects. 
His work ranges from finely detailed Georgian Revival- 
style homes and apartment buildings to starkly 
ornamented Art Deco-style buildings such as Madonna 
della Strada Chapel. Throughout his career, Rebori 
strove to create graceful and distinctive buildings for 
modem living. 

Rebori was born on the Lower East Side of New York. 
His father Paul, an Italian-bom engineer, was killed in 
an accident when young Andrew was three, and the 
family was poverty stricken throughout the boy's 
childhood. Andrew worked in several New York 
architectural offices during his teens while attending 
night school. He showed design promise and was 
admitted to the architecture program at the 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Upon 
graduation, he was awarded a scholarship to the Ecole 
des Beaux- Arts in Paris and the American Academy in 
Rome, spending one year of study abroad. 

Upon his return to the United States in 1910, Rebori 
worked briefly for architect Cass Gilbert in New York 
before moving to Chicago to teach architecture at the 
Armour Institute of Technology. In 1913, he received 
his license. After a brief period working with local 
Chicago architect Jarvis Hunt, Rebori opened his own 
firm as a sole practitioner. One of his earliest 
commissions was the Classical redesign of the 
Studebaker Theater in the Fine Arts Building in 1917. 
At this time he also married Nellie Pendergast, niece of 
Robert R. McCormick, longtime publisher of the 
Chicago Tribune. In 1921, he joined with John 
Wentworth and Albert Dewey. Two years later, 
Leander McCormick joined the firm as a partner. These 
associations provided access to Chicago's society 
families and, in the 1920s, Rebori designed a number of 
buildings for wealthy clients on Chicago's Near North 
Side and North Shore suburbs. 

Rebori is recognized in part for his readiness to 
capitalize on the new 1 923 zoning code that allowed 
towers based on cubic volume. At a time when many 
architects were following the lead of Graham, Anderson, 
Probst, and White in crafting modern interpretations of 

Images 30-31 : (top to 
bottom) Andrew Rebori, 
the designer of the 1925 
Roanoke Tower addi- 
tion to the earlier Roa- 
noke Building, is signifi- 
cant as an innovative, 
idiosyncratic Chicago 
architect of the 1920s 
and 1930s; Madonna 
della Strada Chapel at 
Loyola University of 
Chicago (a designated 
Chicago Landmark) is a 
striking Art Deco-style 
design by Rebori fomr 


Images 32-35: (clockwise from top left) the Common Brick Model House from the 1933 
Century of Progress Exposition (demolished); a double house on N. State Parkway, de- 
signed in 1938 for Rebori's own use; the Fisher Studio Homes from1936 (a designated 
Chicago Landmark); and the Art Deco-style LaSalle-Wacker Building, designed in collabo- 
ration with Holabird & Root. 


the classic style, Rebori worked to explore new and dramatic forms utilizing a series of 
setbacks. In part, Rebori's designs represent the edict "Form Follows Finance," paving 
a path for developers to create the largest possible buildings. To Rebori, the success of 
any tall building was based on "the three essentials of suitable location, property 
planning, and adequate financing." 

The 1 920s was a prolific and productive time for Rebori. Many of his projects remained 
unbuilt visions, such as his 1918 Victory Hall of the Nations designed for a site near 
Michigan Avenue at Grant Park and a number of apartment buildings, hotels and offices 
in the North Central District. One of his most dramatic designs was a fifty-six-story 
building called Michigan Tower, designed in 1925 under the new zoning law but never 

Of works built, among his most prominent 1920s designs are the 1923 Racquet Club, an 
exclusive club at 1 963 North Dearborn Street, and chic cooperative apartment buildings 
built in the second half of the decade at 2430 North Lake View Drive, 40-50 West 
Schiller Street and 1325 North Astor Street. Other important works are the 1928-30 
LaSalle-Wacker Building, an Art Deco-style office skyscraper designed in association 
with Holabird and Root, the 1929-30 Elizabeth M. Cudahy Library for Loyola 
University and the 1938 Madonna della Strada Chapel also at Loyola University (and 
designated a Chicago Landmark in 2004). Especially distinctive was the 737 North 
Michigan Avenue Building, built in 1928, a low-rise artists-studio and exclusive 
boutique building commissioned by the then-owner of the Fine Arts Building. 
Handsomely detailed in the Art Deco style, this limestone-clad building (demolished in 
the early 1970s) was topped by a penthouse apartment complete with corner 
astronomical observatory for one of the owner's three sons. The 1925 thirty-seven-story 
addition to the Roanoke Building was Rebori's first office design to be built. 

Economic troubles brought on by the Great Depression forced Rebori to disband his 
architectural partnership and work solo during the 1930s. Individual projects of note 
include the Streets of Paris concession and Common Brick Model House at the 1933-34 
Century of Progress Exposition, the Fisher Studio Homes at 1209 North State Street 
(designated a Chicago Landmark), and a striking, Art Moderne brick-and-glass block 
pair of houses at 1328 North State Street that Rebori designed for himself and his son. 

During World War II, Rebori worked on United States defense projects such as the 
design and construction of the U.S. Army weapons manufacturing plant at McAlester, 
Oklahoma. In the post-war years, he worked for DeLeuw Cather & Co., a large 
engineering firm, designing such buildings as a Chicago & North Western Railroad 
diesel shop located in Chicago's West Garfield Park neighborhood. 


Form Follows Finance: Building Height Limits 
and the Rise of Chicago Towers 

The original construction of the Lumber Exchange Building, and its later transformation 
into the Roanoke Building and Tower, illustrates how "form follows finance," how 
business needs and the 1923 zoning law — that allowed building forms to be restricted by 
total cubic volume rather than absolute height — brought about Chicago's historic 
downtown skyline, pierced with thin skyscrapers rising from larger bases. 
The city first regulated height in 1 893. A real estate boom that began around 1 888 
combined with development of steel-frame construction pushed the standard level of 
new office building to around 200 feet. This resulted in high vacancy rates that were 
further increased by the financial panic of 1 893. In response, the city set a building 
height limit of 130 feet. 

The maximum height moved up and down several times in response to pressures from 
the real estate industry. The combination of geography and capitalism forced a 
concentration of growth. The business center was confined on three sides by water and 
by a conglomerate of railroads to the south. The result was centralized retailing, office 
buildings and a mass transit system that serviced the area. This concentration made the 
skyscraper almost a creature of necessity. The Loop contained nearly sixty percent of 
the total assessed land value of the 190 square mile city. This concentrated downtown 
would be one of the most densely packed commercial cores on earth. 

In response to burgeoning demand, in 1902 the city raised the height limit to 260 feet. 
Immediately plans for eight new buildings were announced. The market cooled at the 
end of the decade and the height was reduced to 200 feet in 191 1, resulting in a flurry of 
construction to build to maximum heights before the height limit was reduced. The 200 
foot height limit was in existence when Holabird & Roche designed the Lumber 
Exchange Building and the building was constructed to the maximum allowable height. 
In 1920, the city raised the height limit to 264 feet. At this time, existing rents were 
increasing eighty to one-hundred percent. Again, with strong market demand, the 
Lumber Exchange Building was expanded to the higher limit, with the addition of six 
floors. "Tear down that old rat trap and build a sixteen story building" was the sales 
pitch of real estate developers. New construction here included the Wrigley Building, 
Chicago Temple, and the London Guaranty and Accident Building. 

As Carol Willis writes in Form Follows Finance . "This situation fueled a boom in new 
construction. New buildings rented quickly and were extremely profitable, attracting 
more investors, and easy financing through banks, insurance companies, and mortgage 

bond houses excited speculation The 1923 zoning ordinance responded to these 

expansionary pressures by increasing cubic volume permitted in high rise buildings." 
In 1923 the restriction was adjusted so that vertical limit above the sidewalk was 264 
feet. Above that height, a tower could be erected on twenty- five percent of the lot. The 
upper section could not, however, exceed one-sixth of the maximum cubic area of the 
main building. 

The new zoning code opened the door for imaginative designers and developers. The 
McCormick estate, with architects Holabird and Roche joined by Andrew Rebori, saw 


Images 36-37: (top) Chicago's skyline as seen from Lake Michigan at the Mouth of the Chi- 
cago River, circa 1933. These skyscrapers were all constructed within a ten-year period 
from 1919-1929. (bottom) Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan in 2006, the once-towering 
Chicago Board of Trade building is now dwarfed by the modern skyscrapers. 


and capitalized on the opportunity. Rather than build new, the McCormick plan was to 
acquire the forty foot wide parcel at the east and incorporate it into the Roanoke 
Building, and then base calculations for a tower on the entire complex. This strategy 
allowed McCormick to add fifteen floors in a tower of approximately 90 feet by 40 feet. 
This also established the precedent that towers could incorporate exiting floor-to-area 
ratios and not just be limited to new construction. Another early example here is the 
1924 Strauss Building by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White. 

The result of the new zoning code was twenty-plus spires in the skyline by 1930, capped 
by the 612-foot-high Board of Trade Building. There were also eight buildings over 500 
feet in height and eleven over 400. These came largely in two forms. The first was the 
Roanoke — essentially a block with tower. Another example is the 1929 Carbide & 
Carbon Building. The second form integrated massing and tower. Examples here 
include the Board of Trade Building (1929), Mather Tower (1928) and One North 
LaSalle (1930). Collectively, these towers have had a fundamental role in defining the 
Chicago skyline. 

Images 38-39: Two examples of the effect on Chicago skyscraper design that the 1923 
zoning had. (left) Graham, Anderson, Probst & White's 1924 Strauss Building, the new 
code allowed for a higher tower; (right) a bird's-eye view of the 1928 Mather Tower. Im- 
age 40: (opposite page) 1930s Birds-eye-view of South LaSalle Street and the Roanoke 
Building and tower. 


Later History 

The Roanoke Building and Tower was in the ownership and management of the Leland 
McCormick Estate for 66 years. During this time, management strove to maintain the 
property's strength in the marketplace with ongoing maintenance. Major work included 
reconfiguration of tenant spaces as leases required. This includes upper floors as well as 
ground-floor retail. In the late 1 950s, the owners embarked on a phased rehabilitation 
that included modernization of the elevators, window replacements and air conditioning. 
In 1961, the cornice was removed. 

In 1981, LaSalle Partners acquired a partial interest in the building and took over 
management. LaSalle then embarked on a $175,000 renovation of the storefront 
exterior and the lobby, new design by Hammond, Beeby & Babka. The building is 
listed as "orange" in the Chicago Historic Resource Survey. 

Roanoke Building 
& Tower 


Criteria for Designation 

According to the Municipal Code of Chicago (Section 2-120-620 and -630), the 
Commission on Chicago Landmarks has the authority to make a preliminary 
recommendation of landmark designation for a building, structure, or district if the 
Commission determines it meets two or more of the state "criteria for landmark 
designation." as well as possesses a significant degree of its historic design integrity. 

The following should be considered by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks in 
determining whether to recommend that the Roanoke Building and Tower be designated 
as a Chicago Landmark. 

Criterion 1: Critical Part of City's Heritage 

Its value as an example of the architectural, cultural, economic, historic, social, or 
other aspect of the heritage of the City of Chicago, State of Illinois, or the United States. 

• The Roanoke Building and Tower exemplifies the history of LaSalle Street as the 
historic business and financial center of Chicago and the Midwest. 

• The Roanoke Tower itself was one of the first applications of the 1923 zoning law 
that allowed soaring towers to pierce the Chicago skyline and helped establish 
precedents for interpreting the new height regulations in the zoning ordinance. 

Criterion 4: Important Architecture 

Its exemplification of an architectural type or style distinguished by innovation, rarity, 
uniqueness, or overall quality of design, detail, materials, or craftsmanship. 

• The Roanoke Building and Tower is an outstanding and unusual example, in the 
context of Chicago, of ornate terra-cotta decoration in a Portuguese Gothic style. 

• The building is also an outstanding example of commercial high-rise design. 

• The building is also significant for its fine use of materials and terra cotta 

Criterion 5: Important Architect 

Its identification as the work of an architect, designer, engineer, or builder whose 
individual work is significant in the history or development of the City of Chicago, State 
of Illinois, or the United States. 

• The Roanoke Building and Tower is the work of Holabird and Roche, one of 
Chicago's premier architectural firms, responsible for many significant Chicago 

• The later Roanoke Tower itself was a collaborative effort between Holabird and 
Roche and the young Chicago architect Andrew N. Rebori, one of the brightest and 
most iconoclastic architects working in Chicago during the 1920s and 30s. 


Images 41-48: The Roanoke Building has many Portuguese Gothic style terra cotta details, 
including cherubim, foliated fret work, and grotesques. 


Integrity Criteria 

The integrity of the proposed landmark must be preserved in light of its location, design, 
setting, materials, workmanship, and ability to express its historic community, 
architectural or aesthetic interest or value. 

After the completion of additional floors on the original building and the construction of 
the adjacent tower - all historically significant changes to the building - the Roanoke 
Building and Tower has experienced changes common to buildings of its vintage and 
program. On the exterior, storefronts have been modified on both street facades, a 
typical change for commercial buildings of this vintage. Downtown office buildings 
with ground floor retail are almost always modified over time as retail design trends and 
demands change. The storefront level today appears as modified in 1984. In the 1950s, 
the building was upgraded with central air condition, elevator upgrades and window 
replacements. In 1961, the cornice was removed. 

Today, the Roanoke Building and Tower possesses fine physical integrity through the 
continued strength of its aspects, particularly location, design, setting, materials, feeling, 
and association. Changes have been largely limited to the ground floor. Above the 
storefront level, the building is essentially intact as built. 

Significant Historical 

and Architectural Features 

Whenever a building or district is under consideration for landmark designation, the 
Commission on Chicago Landmarks is required to identify the "significant historical 
and architectural features" of the property. This is done to enable both the owners and 
the public to understand which elements are considered most important to preserve the 
historic and architectural character of the proposed landmark. 

Based on its evaluation of the Roanoke Building and Tower, the Commission staff 
recommends that the significant historical and architectural features for the preservation 
of this building be: 

• All exterior elevations, including rooflines, of the building. 

Images 49-54: The Roanoke Building & Tower is clad in terra cotta, combining Holabird & 
Roche's Portuguese Gothic-style architectural details from 1915 and 1922 with Andrew 
Rebori's 1925 Art Deco style architectural details on the tower. 



Selected Bibliography 

Breugman, Robert. The Architects and the City: Holabird and Roche of Chicago, 1880- 

1918. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. 
Chappell, Sally A. Kitt. Architecture and Planning of Graham, Anderson, Probst and 

White, 1912-1936: Transforming Tradition. Chicago: University of Chicago 

Press, 1992. 
"Chicago Board of Trade Building." 141 W. Jackson Blvd., Landmark Designation 

Report. March 4, 2004. 
Condit, Carl. American Building. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968. 
Condit, Carl. American Building Art: the Twentieth Century. New York: Oxford 

University Press, 1961. 
Cutler, Irving. Chicago: Metropolis of the Mid-Continent. 4 th ed. Carbondale: 

Southern Illinois University Press, 2006. 
Doyle, Deborah, ed. The Chicago Architectural Journal. Chicago: The Chicago 

Architectural Club, 1984. 
Fitch, James Marston. American Building: The Historical Forces that Shaped It. New 

York: Schoken Books, 1973. 
Hudson, Leslie. Chicago Skyscrapers in Vintage Postcards. Chicago: Arcadia 

Publishing, 2004. 
Jordy, William H. American Buildings and Their Architects: Progressive and Academic 

Ideals at the Turn of the Century. Vol. 4. New York: Oxford University Press, 

Knox, Janice A. and Belcher, Heather Olivia. Then and Now: Chicago 's Loop. 

Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2002. 
"Majestic Building and Theatre." 22 West Monroe Street, Landmark Designation 

Report, April, 2004. 
Miller, Donald L. City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America. 

New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996. 
"New York Life Building," 37-43 S. LaSalle Street, Landmark Designation Report, 

November 14, 2002. 
Saliga, Pauline A., ed. The Sky 's the Limit: A Century of Chicago Skyscrapers. New 

York: Rizzoli, 1992. 
Sinkevich, Alice, ed. AIA Guide to Chicago. 2nd ed. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2004. 
Willis, Carol. Form Follows Finance: Skyscrapers and Skylines in New York and 

Chicago. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1995. 



Richard M. Daley, Mayor 

Department of Planning and Development 

Kathleen A. Nelson, First Deputy Commissioner 
Brian Goeken, Deputy Commissioner for Landmarks 

Project Staff 

John M. Tess, President, Heritage Consulting Group: research, writing and layout 
Terry Tatum, project coordinator: editing. 

Illustration Sources 

Breugman, Robert. The Architects and the City: Holabird and Roche of Chicago, 1880- 

1918. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.: Image: 22, 24, 25 
City of Chicago Planning and Development Office.: Image: 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 30, 31, 32, 

Chicago Historical Society, LaSalle Street Collection: Image: 1, 12, 15, 16, 21 
Chicago Historical Society, Chicago Daily News Collection.: Image: 17, 18, 19, 39 
Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White Photo Archive http://www/ : Image: 38 
Heritage Consulting Group Photograph, October 2006 and May 2007: Image: 2, 3, 4, 

41, 42, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55 
Holabird and Roche plans of the Roanoke Building: Image: 43 
Hudson, Leslie A., Chicago Skyscrapers in Vintage Postcards. Chicago: Arcadia 

Publishing, 2004.: Image: 23, 28, 29, 56 
McCormick Harvester, Image: 7 
National Trust for Historic Preservation: Image: 14 
Old Chicago Vintage Postcards, : Image: 13, 26, 

Rebori's 1925 plans of the Roanoke Tower: Image: 20 
Saliga, Pauline A., ed. The Sky 's the Limit: A Century of Chicago Skyscrapers. New 

York: Rizzoli, 1992.: Image: 34, 40 
Wikipedia, Chicago.: Image: 27 
Wikipedia, Monadnock Building: Image 27 


Image 55: 2007 photograph of the Roanoke Building & Tower from the 
corner of LaSalle and Madison. 


Image 56: Vintage post card of the Roanoke Building & Tower, featuring 
Chicago's first aerial beacon that perched on the tower. 



David Mosena, Chairmain 
John W. Baird, Secretary 
Phyllis Ellin 
Christopher R. Reed 
Edward I. Torrez 
Ben Weese 
Lisa Willis 
Ernest C. Wong 

The Commission is staffed by the 

Chicago Department of Planning and Development 

33 N. LaSalle Street, Room 1600, Chicago, IL 60602 

(312) 744-3200: (312) 744-2958 (TTY) 

Printed August 2007